The coach in waiting

Texas makes defensive coordinator Will Muschamp the Lone Star State's Prince Charles.

By King Kaufman

Published November 19, 2008 12:00PM (EST)

The media loves it. The fans dig it. Am I the only one who thinks the University of Texas installing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as coach-in-waiting is a little strange?

Muschamp, 37, is in his first year with the Longhorns after running the defense for three years at LSU and two at Auburn. He's widely admired and one of the hottest coaching properties in football. He's been rumored to be at the top of coaching wish lists from coast to coast, including the one for the plum job at Tennessee.

But he won't be going anywhere for a while. Texas locked him up as its very own Prince of Wales, waiting for head coach Mack Brown to retire. Brown says he's not thinking of doing that, and considering he's 57 and has eight years left on his contract, that's a believable statement.

I don't get it from anybody's perspective. Texas reportedly doubled Muschamp's salary to $900,000. That's compensation for spending what could be the better part of a decade passing up jobs that would pay him several times that.

Sure, the deal locks him up as Brown's successor, but a guy who was a defensive coordinator for a national powerhouse at 32, who's in extreme demand around the country for head-coaching jobs, who's thought of as brilliant young coach and who's worked at Texas would figure to get a fair crack at the Texas coaching job when it comes up if he wanted it.

Texas gets some certainty, at the cost of $450,000 a year, which I realize is lunch money to Texas Longhorns Football Inc. but these piddling amounts add up in tough times.

But does the University of Texas really need certainty? Does it have to pay top coaching candidates to hang around? Even if Muschamp went off and coached at Tennessee or Clemson or someplace, don't the Texas people think their storied, perennially championship-contending program could lure him back?

And what about Brown? He makes more than $3 million a year, and his successor's already in place, waiting, making less than a third of that. I'm not saying that if I were Muschamp I'd be looking to lure Brown into some dark alley. But I might leave a lot of brochures from tropical resorts lying around the office in November. I might fix a concerned look on my face around Week 6 and start asking coach if he's OK, if he feels as worn out as he looks, if he'd like to sit down and can I get him anything.

And if none of that works, I'd try to lure him into some dark alley.

"There is no timetable," Brown said about the transition to a Muschamp regime.

Sure about that, coach?

King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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